Life is short. Far too short to eat bad food. Certain occasions call for fine ingredients – fabulous oysters paired with a perfectly chilled glass of champagne, caviar eaten from a mother of pearl spoon, and fresh, white truffles shaved over creamy risotto. The shopping list below might be considered a gourmet's bucket list. When only the best will do, when money is no object, and when you feel you deserve to be spoiled rotten, these are the foods to indulge in. Live like a gourmand, even if only for an evening, and by the famous decree, "the only thing I don't eat is bad food".
Yubari king melon (sushi)
These orange-sized fruit, resembling rock melon, attract prices upwards of $20,000 a pair. Grown in the town of Yubari in Japan, the melons are revered for their perfectly proportioned appearance and their juiciness.
Jamón ibérico de bellota
The salted, air-dried leg of a pata negra pig is widely considered the world's most exclusive ham and Spain's most beloved delicacy. Made from happy pigs allowed to roam free in the old growth oak forests of western Spain, the pata negra subsist on acorns, wild mushrooms, herbs and native grasses, a diet which helps produce meat so tender and richly flavoured, that people happily pay more than $100 a kilogram for it.
Serious wine connoisseurs might consider the 1978 Romanée-Conti, a must-try. Having recently sold at Christie's fine wine auction in Hong Kong for US$39,690 a bottle, the French drop would likely be a once-in-a-lifetime indulgence. A bottle of locally produced Penfold's Grange Hermitage might be more accessible, or if champagne is the order of the day, a chilled bottle of vintage Perrier Jouet is an elegant aperitif.
Aceto balsamico tradizionale
Made from late-harvest white Trebbiano grapes, aceto balsamico tradizionale, is the finest of all balsamic vinegars. The grapes are boiled down to a concentrated "must", then placed in a series of cloth-covered barrels, evaporating over time into a viscous, dark, sweet, complex syrup. Balsamic is only true balsamico tradizionale if it is made in Modena or Reggio Emilia, aged for a minimum of 12 years and costs around $200 for a 100ml bottle.
These southern mud oysters – ostrea angasi – grow from south-east NSW across to Western Australia and down to Tasmania. Renowned for their clean, pure taste, angasi stocks depleted from overfishing in the 1990s. Several oyster farmers in South Australia and WA now farm angasi, fetching high prices for what many consider are the nation's finest shellfish.
Retailing at around $6,200 per kilo, caviar has long been considered "the" luxury ingredient. Rare, hard to source, and delicious, this precious fish roe was historically the hors d'oeuvres of choice for royalty the world over. The Russian courts and Russian elite have long been the biggest consumers of the prized eggs. Most caviar is collected at the edge of the Caspian sea, where the fish are "milked" by hand, but the delicacy originates from Italy, says providore Simon Johnson. “Few people know that the Po River has long been a source of fine caviar."
Found along the southern coastline of the country, green lipped abalone is a favourite of chefs, including Tetsuya Wakuda, who revere it for its clean, fresh, salty characteristics and soft flesh. Stocks of the shellfish, which divers collect by hand, have reduced in recent years due to overfishing, but state wildlife and marine parks have introduced bag limits for divers. As such, it is important to buy in season.
Matcha green tea
Traditional Japanese green tea is made from fine powdered green tea leaves known as "matcha", and retails for about $230 a kilogram. The tea is mixed with a bamboo whisk and served in tea ceremonies where it is regarded as a life-giving beverage full of beneficial antioxidants. Japanese pastry chefs use matcha powder in cakes, desserts and pastries, keen to impart its vibrant green colour and distinctive flavour. Matcha macaroons also take pride of place in the best patisserie windows across Paris.